In the title piece, Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, completes his theorem on "Phase Conjugate Grammars for Extra-dimensional Summoning." Turing's work paves the way for esoteric mathematical computations that, when carried out, have side effects that leak through a channel underlying the structure of the Cosmos. Out there in the multiverse are "listeners" who can sometimes be coerced into opening gates. In 1945, Nazi Germany's Ahnenerbe-SS, in an attempt to escape the Allied onslaught, performs just such a summoning on the souls of more than six million. A gate opens to an alternate universe through which the SS move people and material--to live to fight another day. But their summoning brings forth more than the SS have bargained for--an evil, patiently waiting all this time while learning the ways of humans, now poises to lunch on Earth. Secret intelligence agencies, esoteric theorems. Lovecraftian horrors, Middle East terrorist connections, a damsel in distress, and a finalbattle on the surface of a dying planet round out this story.
Lovecraft's Cthulhu meets Len Deighton's spies in Stross's latest, as the Scottish author explains in his afterword to this offbeat book offering two related long novellas, "The Atrocity Archive" and "The Concrete Jungle" (the latter previously unpublished). With often hilarious results, the author mixes the occult and the mundane, the truly weird and the petty. In "Atrocity," Bob, a low-level computer fix-it guy for the Laundry, a supersecret British agency that defends the world from occult happenings, finds himself promoted to fieldwork after he bravely saves the day during a routine demonstration gone awry. With his Palm, aka his Hand of Glory (a severed hand that, when ignited, renders the holder invisible), and his smarts, he saves the world from a powerful external force seeking to enter our universe to suck it dry. In "Jungle," Bob teams up with a cop, Josephine, to save the Laundry from a powermonger who seeks to stage an internal coup by using zombies as her minions. Amid all the bizarre happenings are the everyday trappings of a British bureaucracy. Bob gets called on the carpet by his bosses because he requested backup during an emergency without first getting his supervisor's okay and filling out the requisite forms. Though the characters all tend to sound the same, and Stross resorts to lengthy summary explanations to dispel confusion, the world he creates is wonderful fun. Agent, Caitlin Blasdell at Liza Dawson Associates. (May) FYI: Known as a short story writer, Stross has published only one novel, The Singularity Sky (Forecasts, July 7, 2003). Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Excellent Book, Sci-Fi and Humor Combined
Posted September 22, 2009 by Bill Hughes , Seattle, WAThis is one of my favorite Charles Stross stories. Good sci-fi mixed with excellent humor / satire -- especially if you work in high tech.
January 02, 2006
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
GREEN SKY AT NIGHT; HACKER'S DELIGHT.
I'm lurking in the shrubbery behind an industrial unit, armed with a clipboard, a pager, and a pair of bulbous night-vision goggles that drench the scenery in ghastly emerald tones. The bloody things make me look like a train-spotter with a gas-mask fetish, and wearing them is giving me a headache. It's humid and drizzling slightly, the kind of penetrating dampness that cuts right through waterproofs and gloves. I've been waiting out here in the bushes for three hours so far, waiting for the last workaholic to turn the lights out and go home so that I can climb in through a rear window. Why the hell did I ever say "yes" to Andy? State-sanctioned burglary is a lot less romantic than it sounds?especially on standard time-and-a-half pay.
(You bastard, Andy. "About that application for active service you filed last year. As it happens, we've got a little job on tonight and we're short-staffed; could you lend a hand?")
I stamp my feet and blow on my hands. There's no sign of life in the squat concrete-and-glass block in front of me. It's eleven at night and there are still lights burning in the cubicle hive: Don't these people have a bed to go home to? I push my goggles up and everything goes dark, except the glow from those bloody windows, like fireflies nesting in the empty eye sockets of a skull.
There's a sudden sensation like a swarm of bees throbbing around my bladder. I swear quietly and hike up my waterproof to get at the pager. It's not backlit, so I have to risk a precious flash of torchlight to read it. The text message says, MGR LVNG 5 MINS. I don't ask how they know that, I'm just grateful that there's only five more minutes of standing here among the waterlogged trees, trying not to stamp my feet too loudly, wondering what I'm going to say if the local snouts come calling. Five more minutes of hiding round the back of the QA department of Memetix (UK) Ltd.?subsidiary of a multinational based in Menlo Park, California?then I can do the job and go home. Five more minutes spent hiding in the bushes down on an industrial estate where the white heat of technology keeps the lights burning far into the night, in a place where the nameless horrors don't suck your brains out and throw you to the Human Resources department unless you show a deficit in the third quarter, or forget to make a blood sacrifice before the altar of Total Quality Management.
Somewhere in that building the last late-working executive is yawning and reaching for the door remote of his BMW. The cleaners have all gone home; the big servers hum blandly in their air-conditioned womb, nestled close to the service core of the office block. All I have to do is avoid the security guard and I'm home free.
A distant motor coughs into life, revs, and pulls out of the landscaped car park in a squeal of wet tires. As it fades into the night my pager vibrates again: GO GO GO. I edge forward.
No motion-triggered security lights flash on. There are no Rottweiler attack dogs, no guards in coal-scuttle helmets: this ain't that kind of movie, and I'm no Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Andy told me: "If anyone challenges you, smile, stand up straight, and show them your warrant card?then phone me. I'll handle it. Getting the old man out of bed to answer a clean-up call will earn you a black mark, but a black mark's better than a cracked skull. Just try to remember that Croxley Industrial Estate isn't Novaya Zemlya, and getting your head kicked in isn't going to save the world from the forces of evil.")